"Gillon, I need your help," he said.
Gillon leaned down toward the reporter from his immense height and said, firmly, and in his grandest accent, "Fuck off." "You can't talk to me like that," said the man from the Telegraph. "I've been to public school."
After that there was no more comedy. When he got out onto Moscow Road there were journalists swarming like drones in pursuit of their queen, photographers climbing on one another's backs to form tottering hillocks bursting with flashlight. He stood there blinking and directionless, momentarily at a loss to know what to do.
There didn't seem to be any escape. There was no possibility of walking to the car, which was parked a hundred yards down the road, without being followed by cameras and microphones and men who had been to various kinds of school, and who had been sent down specially. He was rescued by his friend Alan Yentob of the BBC, the filmmaker and senior executive whom he had first met eight years earlier, when Alan was making an Arena documentary about a young writer who had just published a well-received novel called Midnight's Children. Alan had a twin brother but people often said, "Salman's the one who looks like your twin." They both disagreed with this view but it persisted. And today might not be the best day for Alan to be mistaken for his not-twin.
Alan's BBC car pulled up in front of the church. "Get in," he said, and then they were driv ing away from the shouting journalists. They circled around Notting Hill for a while until the crowd outside the church dispersed and then went back to where the Saab was parked.
He got into his car with Marianne and suddenly they were alone and the silence weighed heavily on them both. They didn't turn on the car radio, knowing the news would be full of hatred. "Where shall we go?" he asked, even though they both knew the answer. Marianne had recently rented a small basement apartment in the south west corner of Lonsdale Square in Islington, not far from the house on St. Peter's Street, ostensibly to use as a work space but actually because of the growing strain between them. Very few people knew of this apartment's existence. It would give them space and time to take stock and make decisions. They drove to Islington in silence. There didn't seem to be anything to say.
Marianne was a fine writer and a beautiful woman, but he had been discovering things he didn't like.
When she had moved into his house she left a message on the answering machine of his friend Bill Buford, the editor of Granta magazine, to tell him that her number had changed. "You may recognize the new number," the message went on, and then, after what Bill thought of as an alarming pause, "I've got him." He had asked her to marry him in the highly emotional state that followed his father's death in November 1987 and things between them had not remained good for very long. His closest friends, Bill Buford, Gillon Aitken and his American colleague Andrew Wylie, the Guyanese actress and writer Pauline Melville, and his sister Sameen, who had always been closer to him than anyone else, had all begun to confess that they didn't like her, which was what friends did when people were breaking up, of course, and so, he thought, some of that had to be discounted. But he himself had caught her in a few lies and that had shaken him. What did she think of him? She often seemed angry and had a way of looking at the air over his shoulder when she spoke to him, as if she were addressing a ghost. He had always been drawn to her intelligence and wit and that was still there, and the physical attraction as well, the falling waves of her auburn hair, her wide, full-lipped American smile. But she had become mysterious to him and sometimes he thought he had married a stranger. A woman in a mask.
Excerpted from Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie. Copyright © 2012 by Salman Rushdie. Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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